Tonto Natural Bridge

It is nice to 'find' something as special as this.

The Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest travertine bridge in the world!!!  I had never been to this State Park!  The bridge is 183 feet high and has  a tunnel that is over 400 feet long.  The Park is located about 10 or so miles north of Payson on Highway 260.  You can get more information on the web but be aware that there is a lot of comment about the road.  Ignore it.  The road does have a steep 14% incline in a small portion and there are some mountain curves.  But . . . this is a paved 2 lane road with guardrails and it leads to wonderment.  Just take it in slowly and you will shake your head wondering what all the fuss is about on the web!

If you have a State Park Pass it is valid here.  This is not your usual Visitor Center!

Ample paved parking lots, exceptionally nice and clean bathroom facilities in several locations, paved paths along the creek, nice shade, picnic tables and grills . . . WOW!  You can have pets but they are not allowed on the trails and you cannot keep them in your automobile.

I put more photos of the parking area than usual just to show how easy this place is to visit.  There were just a few people there last Wednesday and we were told at the Visitors Center that it can be crowded on the weekends and holidays.  I bet!  

Within a hundred or so feet from the most southern parking area you can walk to an observation deck and look down on the Bridge.  Along the way you might notice a narrow ditch with running water.  Hmmm. . . .  When you get to the observation deck you will see why. 

The small ditch feeds the greenery at the top of the Bridge.  Those white dots are water.  This image was taken from the observation area.

This image is looking south from the observation deck.  Water is flowing in a small creek down below and you can hear it from above.  It was rather windy and a bit cool on the deck but not so when we hiked down to the creek.

Seen across the creek from the observation deck.  

This is an optical illusion.  This is a level walkway bridge below the observation deck.  The bridge, as you will see below, connects the other side of the creek to a lower deck at the base of the Bridge.  The shadows of the railing were just right to make it look like it has steep steps.  Heck, it could even be a ladder.  You can appreciate the creek!  The Bridge is on the right side of the image.

Illusion dispelled.

There are a number of trails and several paved paths in the Park.  We opted to take the Gowan Trail which leads down to the bottom of the creek.  We were told that you can hike from the northern side and go under the Bridge but you should be prepared to 'boulder hop' and likely get wet.  I am all for that until I consider the cost of my gear!  The Gowan Trail is listed as moderately strenuous but it is doable by this ol' girl so consider that.  There are steps built into the dirt trail and some of them are high enough to make you feel like you are really pulling yourself up.  They have thoughtfully put two benches in the shade for adventurous souls who decide they are going to rest along the way.  You are treated to creek water sounds the whole way down and a view that is pretty doggone nice.

The reflections were fun to work with.  We discussed on the way back just how 'busy' this site seemed to be.  There was so much detail and we shot wide to take it all in.  

We hoped to catch some golden hour shots near the Ballantyne Trailhead on our way back to Phoenix.  We had taken some photos on the way to Payson and now have a few more taken on the way back to share as well.  Unfortunately, I managed to lose all of my shots taken up and back by not importing them properly!!  Tom's are more than up to the task of sharing what the whole trip looked like.

There you have it!  We hope that, if you have not checked out this Park, you consider doing so.  It is about 110 miles north of Phoenix.  An easy drive.  Time it so you can stop and get some golden hour shooting in on the way home!  Thanks for sharing.